EghtesadOnline: Foreign companies should seize the opportunity for collaboration and investment in the country's petrochemical sector, Marzieh Shahdaei, head of the National Petrochemical Company, said on Sunday.
"We should embrace the opportunities for cooperation with international companies that have access to advanced petrochemical knowhow because potential threats could undermine the openings," IRNA quoted her as saying.
She acknowledged that economic stagnation and declining demand pose a risk to the international petrochemical market, adding, "we need to expand our petrochemical expertise to be able to cut production costs, especially when the market slips into recession".
Tehran still faces a more pressing challenge due to the international sanctions. A historic deal between Iran and the six world powers in 2015 came into force in January last year, lifting many barriers against trade with Iran in exchange for limiting the country's nuclear activities, Financial Tribune reported.
But international investors say they are wary of doing business with Iran amid growing provocations against the Tehran government by the new US President Donald Trump who has called the nuclear deal "the worst agreement ever negotiated".
Kurt Bock, the chief executive officer of German chemical giant BASF, said last week that the company's oil and gas investment plans in Iran have been put on hold because of uncertainty over the status of economic sanctions.
"We can't see that the lifting of sanctions is being implemented at the speed that was initially expected," he said.
However Iran is pressing ahead with plans to reform its petrochemical industry as the country aims to diversify its economy that is largely dependent on oil export revenues.
"Our main goal is to gradually decrease the export of crude oil and natural gas and ratchet up petrochemical production and exports," Shahdaei said.
Iran holds the world's second-largest proven natural gas reserves (34 trillion cubic meters) and the fourth-largest crude oil reserves (157 billion barrels). Based on estimates, Iran can draw on its oil and natural gas reservoirs for at least 50 and 80 years respectively, excluding the new discoveries.
"With a population of 80 million, Iran is an attractive investment opportunity in the petrochemical sector," the NPC chief said.
Shahdaei said petrochemical production capacity now is around 65 million tons a year, but would reach 100 million tons per annum in five years and 150 million tons by the next decade.
Close to 19 million tons of petrochemicals, worth $10 billion, has been exported in the present fiscal year that ends in March.
"Twelve major petrochemical projects are under development with total capacity of 6 million tons a year," she said. Five projects are expected to be launched by the third quarter of this year.